Through the eyes of 1932 Carson City
Thanks to Sue Ballew of the Carson City Historical Society, I have a small collection of essays written in 1932 by Carson High School students on the history of early Carson from the perspective of longtime Carson residents.
The history, as related either to or by the students, is a bit shaky to say the least. In one essay, a student reports that the first Capitol, which was made of wood, burned to the ground. I’ve never heard this. Have you? But that doesn’t mean much. There’s a lot I don’t know.
The essays were written for the Nevada Federation of Women’s Clubs essay contest. The subject matter of the essays written by Carson High School students came from interviews with then-longtime Carson residents including Justice of the Peace William T. King, Peter Cavanaugh, Dan Quill and Alfred Chartz.
According to Calvin J. Dodson’s interview with Chartz, Carson’s oldest inhabitant was Robert L. Fulstone, who settled in Carson in 1858. The essay said Fulstone drove an ox team and hauled adobe bricks used to build the “old Thaxter Drugstore building.”
Only one Fulstone, teacher Maud Fulstone, living at 511 S. Minnesota St., was listed in the 1932 Polk Directory. No Robert Fulstone shows up in the 1920 online census database either, so I guess I will take Dodson’s and Chartz’s word for it. A Robert and Mary Fulstone were listed as living at 615 King St. in the 1910 census, but both had vanished by 1920.
Dodson also reported that rollerskating was the rage “among the most leisurely of Carson City, and a hall was erected where the present residence of George L. Sanford is located – 412. N. Curry St. The hall was crowded every night, and until everyone learned to skate a great deal of merriment took place, witnessed by large crowds looking through windows and doors. A lady known as Jack McGee’s wife was the principal tumbler of the crowd.”
Two interviews were done with William T. King, by Walter Lynd and Claire Graham.
Claire romanticized things a bit more than Walter, beginning her essay titled “A Pioneer’s Recollections” with a quote from Longfellow.
She said her interview with King made her “almost” wish she could have lived “during those early pioneer days; those days when the fearless and sturdy settlers crossed the plains in covered wagons in search of new lands, new hopes and greater happiness.”
I can relate to Claire’s wish, as I too would like to have walked the boardwalks of my hometown during its heyday. I am sure my imagination of that hillside community bustling with 20,000 residents can only summon a pale comparison to the reality of the Comstock Lode at its height. I would pay my last cent for time travel. I don’t want to change history, just see what it was like.
Claire seems to have traced the travels of King as he made his way West as a boy. After this, he shared with Claire the same story he shared with Walter about the construction of a streetcar line in mid-Carson City.
The only difference is that Walter believed the line from the Prison Quarry to town was constructed by Abe Curry, and Claire by Edward Curry. Imagine how history could be changed if we had only Claire’s essay. The line carried quarried sandstone from the prison to downtown, where stores and more were being built. Made of wooden rails, the ore cart-like cars were pulled by mules. It seems plausible, but I’ve never heard of it. In Claire’s essay, King claims to have ridden the cart back and forth with the son of a blacksmith with the last name of Blythn.
The 1870 census lists a 47-year-old blacksmith named J.L. Blethen living in Ormsby County with his 34-year-old wife, M.G.; an 11-year-old boy, A.G., who was at school; a 7-year-old boy; Charles W.; and a 10-year-old boy, F.A.B. Blethen born in April. The census had been conducted in June.
King told Claire he was born the same year as the Pony Express, making him 10 for the 1870 census, as the Express began in 1860.
King also told Claire that the Overland Stage headquarters were on the lot where Miss Maude Gillson’s residence now stands. Polk’s 1932 directory says Gillson was the assistant state librarian and lived at 111 E. Fifth St.
So if we can believe that King played with a blacksmith’s boy named Blethen, can we also believe in the wooden rail line between Carson Street and the prison?
He is also the author, in Walter’s essay, of the wooden Capitol.
Kelli Du Fresne is features editor for the Nevada Appeal. Contact her at 881-1261 or kdufresne@nevadaappealcom.